El Salvador’s New President is Palestinian… But May Be a Zionist

February 11, 2019

2 min read

Some may take El Salvador’s newly elected president’s Palestinian heritage at face value but this enigmatic dark-horse may be Israel’s newest ally in Central America.

Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez, El Salvador’s newly elected president, is exceptional in many unanticipated ways.

At  37-years-old, he is the youngest man ever elected to the post looks the part, frequently appearing in a black leather jacket, since he both rides and sells Yamaha motorcycles. Though he began his political career in the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), he was elected as head of the right-wing Great Alliance for National Unity (GANA) party he founded just six months before the election.

The victory came as a surprise since El Salvador, like the U.S., had a two-party system until Bukele won 54 percent of the vote last week. His upset victory, managed through an active social media campaign, came as a relief to the country’s populace who were tired of a government in which both parties were riddled with corruption.

Bukele is one of the approximately 120,000 El Salvadorans with Palestinian ancestry. El Salvador has the second largest population of Palestinians in South America behind Honduras. His Christian grandparents, along with many others, immigrated to South America from Ottoman-ruled Bethlehem.

But his Palestinian identity does not define his relationship with the Jews or Israel. While attending an International Mayors’ Conference in Jerusalem last February, Bukele proudly told former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat that his wife’s grandfather was a Sephardic Jew (Video; 1:55). Bukele has not voiced any foreign policy plans and it is still unknown how he plans to relate to Israel.

His personal faith is enigmatic. Born to a Christian mother, Bukele has publicly stated that his family is Roman Catholic. His father converted to Islam and is a prominent imam in San Salvador, though Bukele claims his father “always considered [Jews] his brothers.” He stirred up controversy when a picture surfaced during the campaign showing him praying in a mosque in Mexico City. In an interview with AP last month, Bukele claimed he “had a belief in God but not organized religion.”

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